Sunday, 30 October 2011

Who was this James Squire fellow anyway?

Apparently James Squire was an Australian convict (of course) that is supposed to have opened the first commercial brewery in Australia. Today, the Maltshovel brewery in Sydney uses the name for their beers and I was quite happy when I came across bars serving the beers among all the other boring lagers.

Malt Shovel is a microbrewery, though one owned by the Lion group which is responsible for brands such as Castlemaine XXXX and Tooheys. 

Nine Tales Amber ale was one of my first beers on arriving in Australia, actually I believe it was my second Australian beer. It's a nice amber ale with hints of chocolate, caramel and a little nuttiness. It's not going to blow your mind but it's a rather nice beer.

Jack of spades porter is a little more interesting (only just). The aroma is full of caramel, nuts, coffee and a little fruit. This is all present in when you taste it but once you get over the burnt bitter taste, what you are left with is a weak and watery porter that is a little too fizzy for my liking. 

I also at some point had the Golden Ale called The Chancer. There is little to be said for it other than it's a great thirst quencher. 

In conclusion, if you find yourself in a bar and your choice is either one of the many pale yellow fizzy lagers you find in every Australian bar, or a James Squire ale, you could do a lot worse than order the James Squire beer. They may not be exciting, but they are pretty good beers and far more interesting than the likes of Tooheys New.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Homebrew labels

There are many ways to make labels for your homebrew. Publisher or word and a little knowledge are a good way to go but if you just want something simple and quick then give a go.
They sent me an email and usually when someone spams my inbox, I ignore it but it seems worth letting people know about.

It's very simple to set up a beer label on the site. A few clicks of the mouse is all it takes.

The only downside is that when you get to the end, all you are left with is an option to share it on social media sites or else get the code for your site. You can also download it but you basically get a png (graphics) file. That means to turn that in to a label, you still need publisher or word or something that can support labels, import that graphic in to the template and print it.

It would be nice if some sort of Java label maker loaded without the need for third party software. Not everyone has Microsoft office on their computer.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Murray's Brewery - How's the rest of the beer?

One of the things that stuck me about my visit to Murray's Brewery was just how many beers they produce.
They have a large number of main beers they usually have on available and that list is impressive enough but then you add all the other speciality beers they produce and you have a very impressive portfolio.

Starting off we have Heart Of Darkness, an oak aged Belgian styled imperial stout. What better place to start off than with the beer they brewed to celebrate their 500th brew. Now just think about that for a moment. This blog has not even had 500 posts yet and I can't think of another brewery that has brewed 500 different beers. Unless I have it wrong and this is in fact the 500th batch of beer they have brewed.
Anyway at 9.6% it should be treated with a little respect. The aroma is boozy with chocolate and spicy yeast coming through. On tasting I thought it was dominated by a luscious chocolate with a little bitterness and some roast coffee. The finish was pretty boozy but enjoyably so. It's the chocolate that does it, I could almost swear there was real chocolate in this beer. The oaky vanilla qualities were there but not nearly as obvious as I thought, possibly because the oak casks were Shiraz and not Scotch or Bourbon.
I loved this beer!

To the other end of the spectrum now and Punch & Judy ale is 3.9% quaffer and is perfect on a hot sunny day. The aroma was all grapefruit, caramel, orange and some tropical fruits as well. A very lively aroma and on tasting I was not disappointed. A bitter orange hit is followed by tropical fruits and a slight tangy sourness. The body was a little thin but at 3.9% that is to be expected and did not detract from the beer in the slightest. I thought it a tad too fizzy but a little time sorts that out easily enough.

I have already written about Nirvana pale ale so the only thing I need to say here is that it is not quite as good in the bottle as it is on tap. 

Shawn's fault is an India black ale. I hope VelkyAl is reading and impressed with the fact they did not call it a Black IPA. Shawn wanted to brew something with big flavours so the brewery decided if people don't like it, they can blame Shawn. Well I liked it, I liked it a lot. I did have some misgivings though. The aroma was a sort of smokey caramel, if there is such a thing. The taste was more of the same but with an addition of some booziness as well as the usual flavours you associate with a black IPA as they are called in the US. I suppose I just did not see the point. It was like there were a few flavours screaming for attention and drowning out any subtlety the beer might have possessed. I'm not sure where the smokiness came from because I don't believe it is smoked.

Back on to a more normal footing with Dark Knight porter. Another beer that I found better on tap than bottle but certainly worth buying if available as it's bloody lovely.

Going up a few notches is the Best Extra Porter. This one is 8% and again I found a smokiness on the nose that is not in the description and likely not in the grain bill. Also coming through was chicory and chilli. On tasting it I could have sworn it was a liquefied chocolate pudding. Brown sugar also came through which just enhanced the pudding quality. All in, it was a lovely beer and a desert in itself. Like a good desert, you only have one as any more might make you sick.

One of my favourites before I even tasted it because of the label. Who can resist a cat woman like character in tight black leather? Wild thing is another strong stout and this one is 10% so you expect a big beer with lots of flavour and it does not disappoint. On the nose it's all spicy, old oak and coffee mingled with chocolate. The oakiness comes through in the mouth as well, despite it not being oak aged to my knowledge. A boozy rum like feel, low carbonation with a lovely velvety mouthfeel. Chocolate and a little coffee dominate with the slightly floral and fruity hop bitterness.

And to finish off, they are a winery as well and while I was drinking all these beers (not on the one night of course) my wife was drinking a bottle of their wine. I rather like the label for some reason and the name, skinny dip is pretty classy eh? I only remember it being quite sweet and not something I would enjoy more than a small glass of, I prefer my wine (and beer) a little drier. 

So there we have it! Plenty of beer from Murray's. One thing that sucks is that as well as buying the beer and wine at the brewery, I also got a T-Shirt ($30 I think) and I reckon that got left behind in the camper, possibly along with something else, I don't recall.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Murray's Brewery - Port Stephens - Australia

Before I left for Australia, I asked if anyone had any suggestions for places to visit or beer to look out for. Steve on BeersI'veknown  had mentioned on twitter (I think) that I should keep an eye of for Murray's beers so the brewery was a destination I had in mind.

By the time I got to the brewery, I had already been to their bar in Manly so had experienced some of their beer. That was not going to put me off a brewery visit though.
Murray's brewery is located on the main road (Nelson Bay rd) towards Port Stephens, a sort of dual carriageway surrounded by wineries. It very much reminded me of winery and brewery tours in the USA.

You are given ample warning that they don't serve bland yellow fizzy stuff here. If you pass beyond this point, you have no one but yourself to blame if you can't find Tooheys New on tap.

I was lucky, originally we were going to park the campervan in a campsite and then get a taxi out for the evening but instead we decided to pop in for lunch. It was on the way and a lovely sunny day. Good thing because the brewery tour is at 2pm so we had time for lunch before starting the tour.

As well as beer, they also do wine from their onsite vineyard and they sell other foodie products like special hot sauce and cheese etc.

The setting for the brewery is just fantastic. There is nowhere better on a hot day. It also seems to get very busy with bus loads of people arriving. The brewery is located in a very scenic wooded area and surrounded by vineyards as well. They don't make their own wine on site, instead they send the grapes off somewhere else.
We both had fish and chips and it was by far the best fish and chips we have had in a long time. OK well the chips were nothing special but the fish was absolutely beautiful. This was not Cod, it was too good so I asked what it was and I was told Dory. A google search shows either a character from finding nemo, or a rather ugly looking fish. Ugly it may be but it tasted fantastic.
The Dark Knight Porter went very well with the meaty fish. It was absolute heaven with hints of coffee, caramel & chocolate. It was a little boozy but all in a good way. Dark fruits on the nose. I also thought this was the perfect beer to be drinking on the hot sunny day it was.

The tour brought us through their hop garden which was impressive to see, but they don't really use the hops in their beers because there is simply not enough. Instead they use it for show and the homebrewers use them for pilot brews at home.

Quite a simple setup. Grain goes in the mill and up the tube, in to the mash tun and so on. Nothing too interesting, at the end of the day there is usually little difference in how breweries work other than cosmetic differences.

They do have a semi-automatic bottling machine. This baby can bottle about 1400 bottles per hour and they can brew about 6000l per week.

I spied this little system behind some boxes. It turns out that they built this as a pilot brewery but they don't use it as the brewers mostly homebrew and simply experiment at home.

Oooh shiny brewery porn.

After you are done on the tour, you are brought back to the bar and given a tasting session of all the beers on tap. The best part of the tour as our guide said.

In the end I could not decide on somewhere to stay in Port Stephens so we drove on to Sydney which was about 3 hours or so away. This would give us a full day (2 nights) in the camp site on the edge of Sydney to just relax and enjoy the sun before we headed to the airport on Saturday.

If you are on the east coast of Australia and looking for somewhere to go, this is the place. It was by far my favourite brewery tour, topping even 4 pines, though not by much.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The little Brewing Company - Port McQuarie - Australia

The next day in Brisbane, we picked up our camper van. It was not straightforward of course because I did not write down the address of the rental company (stupid) before I left the hotel. I figured the taxi driver would know where it was. I was wrong of course. In the end, the fare was ever increasing as we got closer to the area I knew it to be and I decided to just get out and walk. The non English speaking taxi driver also could not figure out the money. First he short changed me by $15 and only gave me $5 change, when I pointed that out he handed me a $20 note and I then (me being honest) had to explain to him that I now owed him the $5 so I gave that to him. Taxi drivers in Brisbane, based on the three that I took, are rubbish. Out of the three, two could not speak English.

Anyway I left my wife at a bus stop and walked to the rental company, I knew where it was but I could not explain it to a non English speaking taxi driver. Eventually we set off for Hervey bay. Hervey bay was great, but there was no beer worth drinking, so I was introduced to Tooheys New and all the other pale yellow lagers. This was the purely vacation part of the trip. Whale watching , a day trip to Fraser Island etc. We then set off south for the trip to Sydney over the next few days.

Eventually we arrived in Port McQuarie for no other reason that it sounded like it would be a decent enough place to spend the night, there was a campsite and it was on the way. As it turned out, the campsite was excellent. It was located both right by the water, and right downtown. Unfortunately, from a beer perspective, Port McQuarie was a bit of a beer desert. In fact we walked most of the town centre and only found one bar in a hotel. From the outside it seemed rubbish but it was actually not too bad inside. We watched rugby and James Squire was on tap so I was relatively happy.

The only interesting thing was in the bottle shop called Cellarbrations. There was a few 6 packs of craft beer available, not a great selection but it was better than nothing but what was shocking was the cardboard sign on one of the shelves that said "Local Beer" and pointed to some beer from The Little Brewing Company. We grabbed a few of the beers and set off back to the campsite,  but not before asking if he knew where the brewery was. He took out a map and marked it for us so that would be our destination tomorrow before we leave.

Wicked Elf Witbier was a standard American style, Belgian Wit. Better than Blue moon but not as good as a decent Belgian offering. It was almost like a cross between a pilsner and a witbier. Coriander and other spices complement the orange pith but never overcomes how watery the beer is. It was nice and refreshing but there is nothing interesting abut it. Then again, there rarely is with witbiers and it was full of flavour so overall, it was a very nice beer.

The pale ale on the other hand was a far more interesting beer. Orange marmalade and a strong caramel dominated the aroma. On tasting, a strong malt backbone complemented tropical fruit and bitter orange pith. A little grapefruit breaks through from the cascade. A rather lovely beer I thought.

The brewery was in an industrial estate located conveniently on the way out of town anyway. It would be rude not to pop in. They open from 9am so it was perfect timing and convenience when we arrived there about 9:15 or so. There was already a couple in the tasting room, how they found out about the place I am not sure as they were not in to beer. Before we left, another group came in so that's good going for the little brewery.

Inside there is a small bar with a few of their beers on tap. They charge for samples of course, but if you purchase a certain amount of beer, they waive that charge. Kylie Little was behind the bar and she was a great source of information about craft beer in Australia. I discovered that there is no proper tax differential between a craft brewer and a large brewer. Not unless you are dealing in quantities so small that you are essentially a homebrewer. They produce about 100,000 litres of beer a year and pay the same rate as a brewery that brews millions of litres per year. Kylie seems to be one step away from founding a lobby group to campaign for change. Despite the roadblocks, they are brewing at capacity and while nowhere locally will take their beer on tap, they do produce enough to sell to other parts of Australia. 

It seems Oprah may have tasted their beers, they don't know for sure if she tried it herself did but it was certainly bought for a party she hosted and the have had a great response since then. You can't ask for better publicity when you are a small local  brewery and the PR was worth paying for, so the fact they got paid for the beer is just amazing.

As a brewery tour goes, there is none. It's just a tasting area and you are not allowed to even take pictures of the brewery area for some reason. It is well worth a visit if you want to learn about the industry though as Kylie loves to talk about beer. 

While there, they had two Belgian ales on. A tripel and a dubbel, both under the Mad Abbot name. They were both lovely beers, especially the tripel. I was able to buy a 6 pack of tripel but they were out of the dubbel, or possibly had not bottled it yet. I decided to leave note taking until I got stuck in to the 6 pack.

The tripel had an aroma that reminded me of a sticky caramel apple at Halloween. It almost tasted like it as well but a candy apple that had been soaked in alcohol first because it was pretty boozy. I also got a hint of tropical fruits come through.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Brewhouse Brisbane - Australia

Initially when we arrived in Brisbane, we thought that there were two brewpubs. One called Aurora and the other, Brewhouse Brisbane. Both appeared to be on the same street according to my satnav. Well after ages looking for them, we gave up. They were either closed or else were never there and the satnav was wrong*. We settled on an Irish pub for dinner, drinks and rugby world cup. The reason was price, all the other bars were on the pedestrian street and seemed very expensive. The Irish pub was more reasonable and also had Fat Yak on tap. However after paying $11 for a pint, I gave up after two or three and switched to Coopers as it was far more reasonable at $6.50 per pint.
A quick stop at the hotel to check the Internet and I found that the Brewhouse Brisbane is on the other side of the river. It was also on the satnav so we took a taxi. The taxi driver had no idea where it was and did not speak English so we got off nearby and walked the rest of the way, thankfully it was only only at the end of the block.

We grabbed two beers and went out back in to the huge beer garden. I reckon this place is brilliant on a hot day.

First up was Sunshine honey wheat. The honey was pretty obvious but otherwise this was a crisp and refreshing wheat beer, almost pilsner like actually. It was very refreshing and the perfect beer for a beer garden on a hot summer day.
Next up was Sunset Amber. It was an ok beer, nothing special. A little caramel, a little chocolate and some slight coffee. 

I went back to the bar to pay more attention to what they had to offer. I got a sample tray of the 4 remaining beers available. I was given the menu (available online) and the beers were placed in order of the menu with the changes noted for me.

They were good sizes, pots I believe. Essentially it's not a sample tray, simply pots of beer you purchase as normal. It's not a bad way of doing things to be honest, sort of like getting half pints in an Irish pub instead of a sample tray.

The coffee porter was like a cold espresso. There was a little chocolate as well. At first it was lovely but since I don't drink coffee, after a while it became difficult to drink. If coffee is your thing then give it a go.

The midnight stout was next and it was quite nice. Vanilla and caramel and a slight booziness to it, at 6.7 % we are in to imperial stout territory. I found it quite milky and plenty of chocolate. 

On to BPA now, Brisbane Pale Ale. This was my favourite I think. Orange comes through in the aroma so I wondered was it Amarillo? Well no, as it turns out it is single hopped with Galaxy. In fact it uses all Australian ingredients. I thought it could do with some dry hopping, as it turns out it is dry hopped so I reckon it could do with a little more. Not that there was anything wrong with the beer, it had a fantastic mix of citrus and tropical fruits.

Finally the Starlager. I am pretty sure it was exclusively Saaz hops used. This was an interesting beer because I thought the flavour was fantastic, but it was almost sickly and not because it was too sweet either. It was actually the mouthfeel, it came across as very heavy. I wonder did they add nitrogen to it? It had the body of a heavy stout. It was a good beer but I am not sure how sessionable it is and that sort of defeats the purpose of a Czech style pilsner.

After a while we went inside and listened to the live music. While not being blown away, the singer was entertaining. It was somewhat ruined by some drunk young lads but they were not doing any harm, just having a laugh and they did explain a question I had about Aussie rules football. I think it was just who was playing so they were not too bad, just loud.

We got a taxi back to our hotel, this time we got an Aussie driver who knew exactly where to go and understood what I was saying to him. It was a great night overall and I highly recommend going to Brewhouse Brisbane if you find yourself in the city.

* A little later investigation, as in a few moments ago, revealed the answer. The owners of the Brisbane Brewhouse used to have a brewpub called Aurora's downtown. That's why my satnav had both Aurora and Brisbane brewhouse listed at the same address, it was out of date. Brewhouse Brisbane in its current location south of the river has only been there since last year. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Murray's Bar - Manly - Sydney

When Steve Lamond of Beers I've Known suggested I look out for Murray's beers, I marked the brewery location on my map as somewhere to go when I was driving the camper van back down south towards Sydney. On my second trip to Manly, I had plenty of daylight left so we walked towards the beach to see what it's like. As it turns out, and I had yet to visit, the beach is far more impressive than Bondi beach (no beer articles for Bondi). In fact Manly seems to be more how I picture Bondi to be. 

My initial plan as the sun started to dip towards the horizon was to walk along the beach promenade for a bit but that plan utterly failed when I noticed the big Murray's sign.

When you walk in the arch, you then go up some stairs and walk along a balcony and you then have the option of walking in to the bar, it seemed a little odd design-wise but who was I to argue?

What to pick? There are plenty of beers on tap, not all of which are from Murray's but the majority are. Since I still had plans to visit the brewery, I saw no reason to try all the beers.

So I picked a select few, as usual when it is myself and my wife, I pick a beer for me and then something lighter for my wife and I try hers to see what it's like.

There was a great choice of house beers on the chalk board and some of them sounded awesome. So my plans to only have one or two went out the window and I worried there would be nothing new for me to try when I got to the brewery. Feic it.... or Feck it, whichever you prefer. (technically the first one)

If I'm going to start off, why not start with the big guns? Actually I randomly picked and my first duo was the Grand Cru and Hunters Bock. Two strong beers to start with. The Grand Cru was fruity (sweet) and tart at the same time. Stone-fruit is something that is described in the description but to me it is tropical fruits. What is stone-fruit anyway? Near as I can tell, it is anything with a stone type seed in it so a plum or peach. Anyway, the tropical fruit gave way to a spicy plum pudding  and all around yumminess. It was strong too at nearly 9% so off to a good start.
The Bock was not theirs from what I can tell it was far less impressive. Nothing wrong with it but it seemed quite light with a little chocolate and strong malty backbone but not a lot to make it stand out. I still don't know who made it.

Next I went for the pale ales. First up was the brilliantly named Nirvana pale ale. This was my wife's favourite.  A Jaffa orange delight packed full of pacific northwest style hops, though locally grown in Australia. Also some German Hallertau to give it a slightly spicy kick. It tasted like, er, Nirvana. It was a lovely beer, a fantastic sessionable pale ale.
The double IPA was simply called Icon 2 IPA which to be honest, it's a rubbish name, especially considering how creative the other names are.

That was it, four beers between the both of us and it was time to move on. In this case it was Wednesday so we were heading to 4 Pines for ribs and a pint night.

The next day we went to a fish restaurant in Darling harbour called Bluefush. We were advised it had the best fish and chips in Sydney. Thinking we could just grab some and go, we went to see what it was like. It turned out it was a proper restaurant, though I reckon we could have just ordered and gone. I am not sure if it would have been any cheaper though. Since it was now Thursday, we were feeling the pinch due to just how stupidly expensive Sydney is for someone not on a Sydney wage.

We were glad there was some interesting beer on the menu, one of which was Murray's whale ale. This is actually a wheat beer and reminded me somewhat of Carlow brewing companies Curim. It is crisp, refreshing and somewhat pilsner like. To be honest it's a real thirst quencher and my wife lived it as well. Not very interesting but it does the job nicely. 
I was very disappointed by my Endeavour 2010 reserve pale ale. With Galaxy and Amarillo advertised, I was expecting some fun loving criminals. Instead I got a Limp Bizkit. It started off great with a mandarin orange aroma mixed with pineapple but the taste more a watery tropical-esque pale ale. It was perfectly nice, just not something I would consider worth reserving let alone dating. 

A note on the Murray's bar in Manly. The bartender told me that they would shortly (probably already the case) closing for 6 weeks or so. When they open next, they will have taken over some more units and have 25 (I counted 11 at the time) beers on tap. There will also hundreds of bottles available as well as a bottle shop (off-license/liquor store).

Between 4 pines and the Murray's bar, why would you want to live anywhere else but Manly?

There will be much more from Murray's to come soon.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Session #56 - The Round-up

Wow! Just wow. When I picked this topic, I thought it would attract less beer writers to participate considering that saying thanks to a macro brewery is anathema to many. I had no idea that I would get so many responses, which in turn means I had so many blog posts to read , some of which I have never encountered before. 19 blog posts later (20 in total), and many hours sitting reading and summarising and not to mention a few beers later, I am finally ready to post the round-up (I did the summaries before the intro). I hope I got them all, if anyone was left out then please contact me ASAP so I can correct the oversight. It looks like I was left out of the round-up for Session 55 so these things do happen I'm afraid.

Phil, author of Beersay is a self confessed session virgin. He chose to reminisce about his early drinking days and how in particular, Newcastle Brown and to this day, it is still his go to beer, no his lifesaver.

John - The Beer Nut took an approach similar to mine in that his main area of thanks was to MolsonCoors. I had passed on some Worthington's beers, which Molson Coors owns and has invested in and chose to do what he does best. Drink the beer, take notes and write a post about the beers. He then demanded of Kristy McCready, the MolsonCoors rep who sent me the beers, that she send ship over to this side of the Irish Sea so we can buy them and consume them with glee. Demanding anything of Kristy is a brave thing to do as those who have met her can probably attest to.

Zak with the ridiculously long blog post name of Building International Coalitions Through Beer and Pavement fame wrote that after he was finished sicking up in his mouth, he digressed a little and reminisced about music before realising that without a little corporate powerhousing, he would likely never have listened to smells like teen spirit and discovered the joy that is, or was Nirvana (or is that still is?). That lead him to think that without the big boys introducing him to beer, he likely would never have drank this ambrosia and never moved to craft beer and so never started writing about beer and without beer, would he have ever even started listening to Nirvana? How different his life might have been if the big boys were not promoting the hell out of their beer?

Steve from Beers I've known took a chance. He worried that Fuller's are not big enough? Well they may not be as big as the one's I have listed but they are not a microbrewery so that makes it fine. Also, I can never fault anyone for talking about Fuller's. In particular he thank's Fuller's for buying up the George Gale brewery before someone else did and even though it closed the brewery, they keep some of the beers alive under the George Gale name.

David the Broadfordbrewer chose to talk about one of the biggest gripes that we, in the beer writing world often have with the large multinationals. The buying up of smaller brands. Instead of bitching about it he see's the positive. These beers might never have reached his doorstep without their intervention. I too am thankful to Heineken because if I can go in to a pub in Ireland that is not of my choosing and Paulaner is on tap, I am quite happy and thankful myself.

My good friend Al from Fuggled, who incidentally was my inspiration to start writing about beer picked two of my favourites from the multinational world. In fact I mentioned Guinness and Pilsner Urquell myself. A self professed old fogey, he is adamant that Pilsner Urquell was better 10 years ago but it is still a wonderful beer.

Stan, one of the original session creators and author of Appellation beer hoped he did not stray too far off topic. Well since he invented Beer blogging Friday and wrote the very first session post, I think I can forgive him. In fact he put together a very informative article giving thanks to Henry King, the director of the USBA. King not only made beer safer to drink, he was instrumental in slashing the duty on microbreweries and beginning not only the explosion of micro brewed beer in the US but as a result, the world. So pretty much the father of the craft beer movement? Quite possibly.

Sean from Beer Search Party decided he could not in good conscience defend the big brewers, who might as well be making fire alarms for all the thought they put in to their product. His response has left me wondering if none of the large breweries have any good beers in the US? Molson Coors does in the UK but no doubt these brands are too small to make it to the US market. I think however that his real thanks came at the end and what he was getting at was to say thanks for being so rubbish, so tasteless and so bland that it a gap has opened in the beer drinking market which allows for more flavoursome beers from the small local breweries to become increasingly popular while their own marketshare falls from grace.

Meanwhile olllllo is stuck in the desert and suffering from heatstroke as on the one hand he honestly thanks the big boys for some things and then sarcastically thanks them for others. You can read all his bi-polar 18 or so reasons to thank the big boys on Beer PHXation. And thanks to olllllo for a great read.

Craig drinkdrank his way through the topic by going on an epic beer journey through the history of Albany, the capital of New York state. Specifically he thanked a former big boy in the brewing industry in a brilliant take on the topic. John Taylor owned was the biggest brewery in the US at the time with only the large London breweries producing more beer. In writing his article, Craig has educated me on the brewing history of Albany, an often overlooked little city and one I have never heard in the same sentence as the word brewery before. I encourage everyone to read this!

Alan has a good beer blog and is also Craigs inspiration for the article went on to expand a little. It would seem there is good evidence that Albany has been a powerhouse of American brewing since 1614. He then went on with the same sentiment as Sean and thanked them for a dull and lifeless product that allows someone who drinks a craft beer for the first time to be blown away. He linked to a previous post that mentioned  beer-tasting water and how he was obsessed with the term. Interesting in that when I first went to the US in 2004 I kept telling my in-laws that they were drinking beer flavoured water. An almost identical term with the same inference. Ironic that it was also in the US that I first discovered local beer or craft beer as I came to know it.

Mark gets his pencil & spoon out just in time to be included in the round-up. Mark is a busy boy these days now that he has his dream job in a microbrewery so I can forgive his tardiness. Mark does what he does best in his take, he keeps it simple and concise and to the point. The large breweries produce a product that people trust. It is the same, never changing. You know what you are getting when you order a Bud. It's the same reason why chain restaurants dominate whenever they pop up. There is comfort in knowing that you will enjoy what is on the menu and not have to take a chance on something new. People are generally afraid of change, a character flaw that big business know only too well and use to their advantage.

Jon at The Brew Site used the same example as many. Without the science the big boys bring, we would not have the efficient micro breweries we have today. And without AB, we would not have Mitch Steel producing the amazing Stone beers.

Derrick the beer runner rambled on about something slightly different. Like Mark, he picked Budweiser as his macro drink of choice but he pointed out an obvious truth to many people. When having a barbeque, stop faffing about with IPAs and Belgian Dubbels and other kinds of beer, don't bother with getting the correct serving temperature or glassware. A can of Bud in the hand served ice cold is your only man*.

JayZeis with beer in hand also thanks Budweiser and relays a personal story of how when the town of Bloomsburg was devastated by a flood, meaning there was no safe drinking water available, Budweiser AB trucks came to the rescue packed full of cans of water (branded) for the stricken inhabitants. He reckons this sort of thing goes on all the time but AB does not jump up and down shouting look here, we're great! Look what we did. Instead they quietly help out in disaster stricken regions and the only PR they get is appreciated by the people they help. A very worthy reason to be thankful for the power the big boys actually have. He then goes on to thank them for their wonderful Ad campaigns which you have to admit, have had such an impact on US and indeed world culture. To this day you still have people shout Whassuuup.

Reluctant Scooper Simon relates quite passionately that because Budweiser is such a flavourless and light beer, it makes it much harder to hide brewing flaws so the quality control at AB has to be nothing short of perfection so that no matter where you go in the world, Budweiser tastes the same. Well that might not be true due to contract brewing (Irish Bud I am told is not the same as US Bud), the point need only apply to the US where no matter what state you are in, Budweiser will always taste like Budweiser.

Bruce the Canadian BeerTaster is back to the session with his Canadian take on things. He emphatically rejects the thought that any big brewer is actually evil unless you can consider capitalism itself evil showing that the big mega-breweries are the very essence of capitalism, the shining stars of capitalism that show the world what can be accomplished by capitalism. Without getting in to politics, I think capitalism is flawed but it is the best of a bad bunch when it comes to economic systems, although really, is there a country that is purely capitalist? I don't know of one. Not even the US is a purely capitalist country.

Roger decided to take the satire or sarcastic route. His blog is either called bottledrogersbeers or a fool and his beers but whichever it is, he writes an amusing post about how thankful he is (or not) for the big breweries that have taken over his country and indeed the world. He got quite angry at having to write about this topic, especially considering his personal boycott of AB products so no doubt considered quelling his anger with plenty of bud light or even better, miller high life lite since it would not be consorting with the enemy. In the end though he enjoyed an Amberbock and thanked AB for not trying to pretend that it's craft beer.

Our final contribution comes from Jay himself, the other originator of the session series and the blog that everyone links to when they mention the session or look up past and future sessions. Brookston Beer Bulletin.  Jay brought the human aspect in to consideration. There are good people working in the large multinationals just as there are good people working in the small microbrewery working out of a small warehouse on the edge of town. The big boys created the science and procedures that allow micro breweries to even have a process and equipment to produce a mostly consistent product. He also threw in a little brewing history for good measure which is always nice.

*Your only man - Something that you can rely on e.g. If you're hungry, a burger's your only man (a burger will alleviate your hunger), see Plain above (from tripadvisor)

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Session #56 - Thanks to the Big Boys

For this months session I decided that I wanted to do something out of character for many beer blogs on the internet. I wanted to say thank you to the large multinational brewers and show that we are not all against them. It's not us versus them or craft beer versus mass produced beer. At the end of the day, we are all united in the cause of promoting beer as the alcoholic beverage of choice in a world where beer sales appear to be dropping to be replaced by wine, alcopops and harder liquor. What we do is give voice to the little guy. Large breweries have little need of us promoting their product as they have millions to spend on advertising. We beer writers don't get paid but we give the little guy a voice because how else can they promote their products? I may spend most of my time writing about small breweries and their beer and try to promote drinking local beer from the locality or country you are in but that does not mean I do not respect the big boys.

There are many things I can be thankful of the big breweries for. Sponsoring sporting events and giving us the Heineken cup, Guinness summer series and until recently, the Magners league. OK they are all Rugby tournaments but for me, these are the only sporting events worth watching.

I am thankful to a few specific breweries though. I am thankful to Diageo and specifically the Guinness brand for producing a stout that is perhaps not very interesting, but it is a solid unchanging product that is always a joy to drink when I can't get something a little more exciting. I just wish they would make better use of their small pilot brewery and produce more exciting products. I know it's there and I know they employ brewers to brew special beers but almost none of them ever see the light of day. Like this for instance (see date :p). Of course they do produce some great bottled stouts which would do well to be bottle conditioned again.

Next I would like to thank Pilsner Urquell for two reasons. Firstly they produce a wonderful product which is often overlooked by beer writers. Certainly their unpasteurised and unfiltered Pilsner served from wooden casks is worth killing for. I can also thank them for the time they flew me to London for the British open Golf championship and to cover their sponsorship as the official beer of the tournament.

We now however come to the main brewery I want to thank. This brewery produces what, in my opinion is one of the worst beers on the planet (though there are far worse). It is an absolutely massive company, owning many different breweries and brands.
I got the idea for this session while I was at the beer bloggers conference earlier this year. Both Scott and Kristy represented their company brilliantly and Scott said "we are not the anti-craft".
They were also the primary sponsors of the conference, a brave move considering that most of the writers who attended would rarely have anything good to say about their primary brand. I am of course referring to Molson Coors, a mega brewery that a long time ago saw the need to diversify and embrace small scale brands such as their Blue Moon brand which is marketed as a craft beer. It was launched in 1995 so it has been around for quite some time and was my wife's, grandmother's favourite beer while she was alive. While not all that great in the bottle, it comes alive on tap and is a good beer. Certainly it is a gateway beer to something more interesting. Molson Coors is not content with that though, what is the point of having a gateway to craft beer if it sends people away from them? Well to address that issue, they have a number of other small breweries under their belt and instead of doing what large breweries did in the past and close down their acquisitions, they embrace them and even invest in them.
The Worthington's White Shield brewery is a perfect example. Rather than close it down, they spent over a million pounds on new equipment and produce some fantastic beer from this 1500 barrel (1760hl?) plant.
Sharp's is another example of how they have embraced a smaller regional brewery and are using their considerable influence to increase sales. Now some traditionalists might still argue that they are destroying the identity of the breweries they buy but I certainly don't think that is their intention and I question if it is even true. At the end of the day, breweries brew beer to make money. If they don't make money then they might as well brew beer as a hobby at home if that's all it is.

So thank you to Molson Coors, the most benevolent large mega brewery that I know of. I may not think much of Coors light but I applaud them on having such a massively popular brand and I thank them for their contribution to beer. As time goes on, I suspect that more and more people will want more flavour from their beer. Products such as Coors light will fade away and more flavoursome beers will start making a comeback and Molson Coors are in a very good position to fulfil that change with brands like Sharp's and even Blue Moon.

The biggest problem with beer is the image that beer is the drink of lager louts where as wine is a drink of sophistication, even though beer can be more diverse in flavour and pair with food better than wine. It also has far less alcohol usually. If someone from Molson Coors marketing is reading this, can I suggest you do something to address the image of beer? Show beer as a sophisticated drink to share as a couple in a restaurant. A 750ml bottle to share, like DW for instance. I may be losing the run of my train of thought here, sorry.

Anyway, a big thanks to the large brewers I mentioned and some of those I did not.

And in the interests of satire (something I said would be acceptable as a topic), I would like to thank Diageo again, this time for the Smithwick's brand. Smithwick's has released a new beer and I have yet to try it. I might get a chance this weekend. Smithwick's Pale Ale is pulling all out all the stops. Ads on bus stops say "Craft brewed for fuller flavour" or something like that. Essentially claiming this is a craft beer and because no legal definition of craft beer exists, they are perfectly entitled to do so. so a big thanks to the marketing people at Diageo for trying to blur the whole craft beer thing. Maybe we should go back to micro brewed beer and forget this term craft beer. Let's try and seem them claim they are a micro brewery as that does have a legal definition for excise duty reasons I believe.
In fairness, I am quite impressed by their website. They actually have tasting notes. The beer is finished with Amarillo so I am curious to see what it's like. By all accounts it's not a bad beer, though certainly no American pale ale, Amarillo aside.

** Post your links below or in any of the other reminder posts or else email them to me. I will post the round-up on Sunday the 9th to give  all time zones time to post theirs. Thanks to all those who take part and of course read all of the session posts. Damn, I have to read every single one of them this weekend.**

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Lord Nelson - Sydney

One of the only places I had decided that I must visit in Sydney, before I arrived was The Lord Nelson. I had read about it before so I had high expectations. After I was done at my stop at The Glenmore on Wednesday afternoon, I walked down the road to the brewpub. It was time for more beer and of course some lunch.

The Lord Nelson is Sydney's oldest licensed hotel and brewery. That probably makes it the cities oldest brewery as well. It was founded in 1841 and restored thanks to a photograph from 1852.

As the name might suggest, it styles itself on an English pub, though is clearly catering for the international market. Sitting down by the window you can see how thick the walls are and no matter how hot it was outside (very hot) it seems to stay quite cool inside. There may be some AC lurking somewhere but it was not noticeable so might be mainly down to the cool stonework. The opposite may be true in winter so there is the obligatory oversized fireplace to make it cozy and warm.

The shiny brewery sits at the back of the pub behind large glass windows. Personally I prefer a brewpub with no barrier between customers and the equipment other than a railing or something. Let them smell that brewday malt and hop aroma.

Half pints were $4.70 so not too bad, though more expensive than Paddy's $4.40 per schooner. It seemed that the longer I stayed in Sydney, the more Paddy's Brewery seemed tempting if you wanted value for money. Pity it was so out of the way from where I was in the CBD.

I started off with the Quayle Ale which had a flowery aroma and reminded me of fresh cut hay (yes I live in the countryside, but not on a farm!). Toasted malt was the order of the day and it was light and refreshing. A great summer beer. 
Next was the royal red instead of Trafalgar pale ale. Only 3.9% so a potential session beer? Somewhat spicy, pretty malt driven and full on fruit. I did find it over carbonated for what it was meant to be, the only fault I had with the beer. I enjoyed the lingering bitterness it left in my mouth.
Interestingly there was an English couple beside me who specifically warned me against Royal red. I however rather enjoyed it.

Next round started off with Three sheets which of course means something in both the beer and nautical world alike. It was similar Quayle but a little more citrusy. Quite a lovely beer I thought.
Victory bitter was next and it was a lovely deep red packed full of malty goodness. Full on caramel and dried fruit with a fantastic bitter and spicy finish. Lovely beer and not as over carbonated as the others.

The final round started off with Broadside Belgian dubbel. A fruity Belgian beer packed full of estery, spicy yeasty goodness and bubblegum. The finish was boozy, bordering on acetone but stopped short of being unpleasant to drink. We both rather enjoyed it. 
Old Admiral was another strong beer. A strong ale of 6.1% that left me a little disappointed. It may not be the beers fault because it was served ice cold, perhaps colder than the other beers which in Aussie fashion were all too cold as well. It was also way too fizzy for the type of beer it was. Malty caramel body, boozy fruity finish. Not much I could say about it. I wonder if it had warmed up a little, would it have stood out a little more?
Finally we come to Nelsons blood, a porter packed full of chocolate and coffee flavours and aromas. In fact the coffee was like strong French espresso. You know, the ones in tiny thimbles that pour like bovril or marmite. A fruity middle with a lactic and bitter finish. Plenty of flavour in this one and the perfect beer to finish off with.

Conclusion? I enjoyed my time. The beer was excellent, if a little on the dull side and the food was pretty good too that I remember, I believe we both had chicken burgers. The Lord Nelson should certainly be visited by any beer lover on a trip to Sydney.